Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Adventures in CrockPot Cooking...and an update :)

Well, it's been quite some time since my last post. There are the variety of reasons: I was busy, the holidays, and all of that other garbage. But, the real reason is that I'm pregnant :). I was sick throughout most of the first trimester, so there wasn't much cooking going on. Also, I've injured my leg, so I can't really stand for long periods of time. Suffice to say, I'm dying to get back into the kitchen! I've recently started to get back into my old routine, so be sure to look for more frequent posting. I'm over halfway through my second trimester now, and can't wait to meet our little girl!

Back to food. The Hubby has been sweet enough to be in charge of dinner (takeout) when I wasn't feeling well. But, I've been craving real food. I decided to give the old crockpot another chance. You may remember my Pulled Pork experiment. It turned out awesome, but that has been my only attempt at crock pot cooking. After some research, I decided I wanted to cook a bunch of protein to freeze and use as the base for other meals. During this time, my parents were sweet enough to buy me a new (bigger) crockpot with a digital timer. This made things MUCH easier!

I decided to cook pork, beef, and chicken. For the pork, I followed the same base recipe as the pulled pork. Instead of mixing the cooked pork with BBQ sauce, I froze it into smaller portions with a bit of the cooking liquid. I have since used the pork to make pork stir fry, pork carnitas, and BBQ sandwiches. I just pull a portion out of the freezer the night before to defrost and use it to cook a meal the next day. The cooking liquid is flavorful, but not too strong. So, the pork is easily adaptable.

I went the same route with the beef. For the recipe, go here. While I used a roast, I think it would be perfectly acceptable to use just about any type of beef. Go with whatever is on sale at the supermarket! I've used this beef on its own as pot roast, or in dishes such as beef lo mein and a modified picadillo. I plan on using it again tonight for quick fajitas.

The chicken was a bit more risky for me. I pretty much eat boneless, skinless chicken breast. I know, it's boring, but it's what I like. I do like thigh meat from time to time, so I decided to use 4 huge chicken thighs for my crockpot experiment. I didn't really know what to put into the pot, so I just threw in a bunch of things. For the "recipe", go here. The chicken turned out great. I shredded the chicken and used it in a thai salad and in quesidillas. Next time, I will use more chicken. 4 thighs really wasn't much meat for 2 people to eat 2 meals. Both the pork and beef base recipes made enough for the 2 of us to eat at least 4 meals-I still have some left!

My thoughts on the crockpot: I love this thing. I know I'm the last one to the party on this topic, but I'm glad I finally tried it out! I'm still a little weary of leaving applicances plugged in while I'm away from home, so I just set it to cook overnight. I turn the crockpot off in the morning and leave everything to cool while I'm at work. I usually flip the meat over so that the whole thing gets time to soak in as much of the yummy flavor as possible. I have enjoyed making my regular dinners again, and it has been helpful to have the protein already cooked. On nights where I'm busy or tired, I can use prepare dinner in about 20 minutes. Next up in my crockpot trials: Baked Potato Soup- check back soon!

Note: I will add pictures as soon as I can.

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